Monday, November 05, 2007

Paying by touch at Chicago-based Shell stations

According to this article on Yahoo!, some Shell gas stations in Chicago are testing kiosks from Pay By Touch that will allow consumers to pay based on fingerprint identification. The firm has traditionally placed its biometric scanners into grocery and pharmacy chains, but has decided that it offers a value-add anywhere that purchases can be streamlined or made faster or more convenient.

The first question I asked myself when reading this was, "with technology like this how long will physical money survive?" It's an important question to ask, and my guess would be not too much longer. In all honestly, I make a good portion of my purchases by just using my debit card. I rarely write checks and with online checking I don't really keep a check book in the conventional sense. I'm also guessing that I'm not in the minority. So what does this mean in regards to my shopping habits? That's simple: more impulse buying. Using a debit card makes a purchase seem less real than using cold, hard cash.

Technology as advanced as this will only increase impulse purchasing, and that is always a good thing for business. It's a lot easier to place your thumb on a screen to buy something you really want but know you shouldn't buy than it is to reach into your pocket, grab the cash and physically see the tole it is taking on your net worth. Not to mention, you can leave your wallet at home, or worse, lose it. You're never without your thumb (hopefully).

Of course, there is the issue of paranoia that comes into play with technology such as this. To most people, finger identification is a tool used by secret agents to infiltrate the lairs of criminals. They don't expect to see it at their local gas station. And if you think I'm over-simplifying or even exaggerating just read this interesting bit from the article:

"Sunflower Market, a Chicago grocery store, also has Pay By Touch systems installed. About 2 percent of its customers signed up for the payment option, said the store's manager, Debbie Britton.

"I think it scares people," Britton said. "They're more confused about the whole system. Some of them say, 'Well, now the FBI can find me.'"

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